ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Our view: Put proposed 42nd Street rail underpass alone at the top of the city’s infrastructure priority list

Weigel is right – too many “priorities” on that list will only reduce the importance of the proposed underpass, which has been a hoped-for project for years and remains one that should be tackled immediately.

Herald pull quote, 11/01/22
Herald graphic
We are part of The Trust Project.

As vehicles continue to line up and wait to cross the railroad tracks near the Grand Forks intersection of 42nd Street and DeMers Avenue, consider these Herald news reports over the years.

April 30, 2014: “For several years city leaders have talked of an underpass or overpass there to avoid road traffic waiting for trains to cross. But other road improvements in the city simply are more needed in the near future, city leaders say.”

May 18, 2015: “The city of Grand Forks will pursue a federal grant for an underpass at the intersection of 42nd Street and DeMers Avenue after a City Council vote Monday. …The city for years has considered an underpass that would route traffic under train tracks that parallel DeMers Avenue, and recent increases in rail and vehicle traffic have exacerbated the need, city officials said.”

June 8, 2019: “A new (I-29) interchange is just one of many large-scale projects city leaders are weighing — alongside items like an underpass at 42nd Street and DeMers Avenue. Scrounging up funding is no easy feat, even now with the state’s new ‘Operation Prairie Dog’ bill, which is expected to disburse $250 million in oil tax money for projects in communities around the state.”

More recently, a man was arrested last month for trying to enact a citizen’s arrest of the engineer of a train for blocking that intersection.

ADVERTISEMENT

And last week, the City Council – not in reaction to the arrest, but simply in the process of doing the city’s work – discussed finalizing priorities for the upcoming session of the North Dakota Legislature. The two main priorities on a draft list are the proposed traffic underpass at the corner of 42nd and DeMers and an I-29 interchange at 47th Avenue. Another is a proposed new bridge between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

All are good choices, but we agree with Council member Danny Weigel, who said having multiple priorities results in the effort being “watered down” and losing “some of that glow.”

“I’d be in favor of having one large infrastructure priority, which is the 42nd Street overpass or underpass, and call it a day and really throw all of our eggs in one basket and try to get this thing done.”

Hear, hear.

All of the aforementioned projects are eventually needed and will help ease pressures of future growth in Grand Forks. But of those three, only one seems to be desperately needed at the moment.

Take a drive on I-29 this morning and notice that no cars are backed up as they try to enter Grand Forks on the existing entrances into town.

Drive through town on or near the Kennedy, Sorlie and Point bridges and notice that traffic is not woefully backed up as drivers cross the Red River.

But sometime today – and probably multiple times – a train will cross 42nd Street near its intersection with DeMers, and cars by the dozens will be backed up in an agonizing wait. It’s inconvenient, it adds to traffic issues around the Alerus Center and UND and it creates a roadblock for emergency vehicles. That’s why the underpass should sit alone at the top of the city’s infrastructure priority list.

ADVERTISEMENT

Weigel is right – too many “priorities” on that list will only reduce the importance of the proposed underpass, which has been a hoped-for project for years and remains one that should be tackled immediately.

What to read next
Earlier this month, Attorney General Keith Ellison ruled that students whose families have school lunch debt cannot be denied a regular lunch or be forced to eat a substandard meal in place of whatever lunch is being offered that day at the school.
Going forward, Grand Forks should reconsider and agree to pony up its share of the consulting and scoping fees. Even better, Polk and Grand Forks counties also should join in the sharing of costs, further reducing the impact to each of those entities – all of which will benefit from a new bridge over the Red River.